Archive for ‘Food Fun’

April 24, 2011

Family Secret Cinnamon Rolls

Okay, seriously, these are the best.  They’re our family go-to holiday sticky bun cinnamon rolls and they are universal favorites.  We make them to eat, to give away as gifts, to bring to holiday work potlucks (everyone goes bonkers for them), and for most major holidays.  They use some old-fashioned, non-snobby ingredients (read: frozen dough), but that really just adds to the fun.

Here we go!

You’ll need four things.  The fifth is optional.

1. Bridgeford Frozen Bread Dough(I have literally no idea what might substitute for this… some other white frozen dough, I guess)

2. Butter

3. Brown Sugar

4. Cinnamon

5. Cream (optional)

First you must thaw your bread dough.  It doesn’t take all that long, but if you can remember to get it out 45-60 minutes before you want to use it, that’s best.  Then you stretch and knead the dough into a 12×5″ rectangle that’s about 1/4″ thick, like so:

No need for a rolling pin and/or a ruler.  Just approximate.

Now spread a thin layer of butter over the top.  Please don’t ask me for measurements here… just a thin layer of softened butter.  On top of that sprinkle a good amount of brown sugar.  I’m guessing about half a cup, but mostly just sprinkle on, smooth out, and look.  Is it about 1/4″ thick?  That’s right, then.

Smooth it out with your hand.  Getting messy is good.  It’s very natural.

Doesn’t that just make you want to take off your shoes and lie down with a good book?  No?  Just me?

Sprinkle cinnamon over the brown sugar.  Don’t cake it on thick, just sprinkle it evenly over the brown sugar.

Now you get to roll!  Starting from the long side further from you, start working your way back and forth, tightly rolling the dough toward you.

My sous chef is preparing her favorite: l’hoof d’Sophie:

Once you reach the front side of the rolls, pull it up and over the roll, pinching a bit to seal it off.  At this point I always stretch it a bit, although I believe my mom omits that step.

Before you start slicing you have to prepare your pan.  Melt about 1/2 stick of butter (did I mention this is not low cal?) and pour it into a round cake pan (or pie tin, or 8×8″ square pan) and add about 1/2 cup brown sugar and a 1/2 tablespoon of cream and mix it all up with a fork (the cream is optional but helps keep the mixture from crystallizing).  It will look something like this:

Now start slicing the log into 3/4″ rolls and place them face up in the pan.

Anything extra on the counter?

Add it on, baby.

Waste not, want not.

Now is the hard part (for me, anyway): waiting for them to rise.  Sometime in the next 45 minutes or so go ahead and preheat your oven to 325.

Here they are ready to bake, about an hour later (if you have a warm, non-drafty spot in your kitchen it will work best).  My rule of thumb is that they have to have risen to the top of the pan.

Note: it’s a good idea to put a large baking sheet on the shelf underneath the rolls, as the sugar and butter often overflow and (and this is hearsay, I wouldn’t know anything about it personally) occasionally light on fire.  So I’ve heard.

And here they are about 25 minutes later, lovely and golden brown.   One thing I didn’t get a picture of (full hands): flipping them onto the plate.  As soon as they come out of the oven invert them onto a plate (they’re HOT.  Please be careful.) and let them cool that way.  Like so:

Now, important note.  If you, say hypothetically, decide to re-organize your baby’s dresser drawers (post on this coming soon) while you’re baking your cinnamon rolls, do remember to set a loud timer and/or do not get engrossed in an old episode of Grey’s Anatomy while folding because you may 1) frighten your husband when he comes home and finds you bawling uncontrollably over a sad season 2 incident and 2) burn the heck out of your last two batches of rolls.  Like, I don’t even want to say how long these baked.  It was probably less than an hour, but not much less.

Bright side: they still look pretty!  And shockingly, did not taste terrible.  Not good, but not charcoal.

There you have it!  The bestest cinnamon rolls in the whole wide world.  Go forth and conquer your jeans’ top button (it, uh, might not like you so much after you eat a whole pan of these).

April 18, 2011

No-Waiting Cinnamon Rolls

In my Quick Takes on Friday I noted that I had found a recipe for no proofing, no rising cinnamon rolls that I wanted to try.  Lo and behold, on Saturday morning my little bean woke up early giving me the perfect excuse to make them for breakfast.

Since I hadn’t planned on making them beforehand I didn’t shop for any ingredients or anything which is why when I pulled up the recipe, I realized there were some problems.  1) It called for ricotta cheese, of which I had none and 2) it called for a food processor which I also did not have.   The author mentioned she preferred this recipe to another she had tried that hadn’t worked for her, so I clicked on through to that site.  There I discovered that there was no ricotta/food processor requirement, so I went for it.   This is how it went.

Your players:

Pretty basic stuff.

The first thing you do is mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter until it resembles wet sand.

Next you whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate, larger bowl: flour, sugar, baking powder,  baking soda, and salt.

Check on your sous chef.

Looks like a party over there.  Moving on.

In another bowl (medium sized) whisk the buttermilk and melted butter together, then add to the dry ingredients.

Mix together thoroughly with a wooden spoon.  Note that right now my mixer looks like this:

and that pleases me.  No mixer dishes!   I don’t know why, but washing the mixer bowl and attachments always seems so daunting.

Anyway, once you mix the dough, it will be pretty soft, and look like this:

Turn that out onto a floured surface and knead for 1-2 minutes, until it looks like this:

The light wasn’t great… early morning.

Shape the dough into a 12×9″ rectangle and pour the remaining two tablespoons of butter over the top, spreading it evenly.

Pour the filling over the top, spreading it out evenly and leaving about an inch border on all sides.

Roll the back edge towards you, keeping a tight roll by moving back and forth at an even pace.  Bring the front up to the top, pinching the edges to seal.

Cut the roll into 8-12 equal pieces, depending on how large you like your cinnamon rolls (I did more like 12).  Place them in a greased cake pan.  Here is a picture of them in the oven, as I forgot to take one on the counter.

They took about 25 minutes to bake and I made the glaze in the meantime.

I have no pictures, but I whisked together 2 oz. mascarpone cheese, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla.  I liked the sweet glaze, but I think I’d prefer the tang cream cheese has to the milder flavor of the mascarpone for next time.

Once the rolls come out of the oven, pour the glaze over and let everything get all warm and cozy.  Here is the finished product.

Final verdict: the texture was a little different than normal rolls; a little denser and flakier, but they were good and took about as long to make as some cookies, which is a major bonus in my book.  Try them out on a Saturday morning when you’re up before everyone else with the baby.  People love yummy surprises.

No-Yeast Cinnamon Rolls

Recipe by Cooks Illustrated via Gastronomy Blog.  Click the link to get the full recipe!


April 6, 2011

Chicken “Carbonara,” or, How to Make Do With What is in the Pantry

The other night I went to make dinner and I was missing several key ingredients.  I didn’t have cream to make a creamy sauce, I didn’t have tomato sauce to make a red sauce, and I couldn’t figure out what to make with my thawed chicken thighs.  I visited Pioneer Woman for some ideas, and decided to try an extremely modified carbonara.  Using this as a starting point, I gathered together these guys:

Not shown: two eggs,  olive oil, spaghetti (or whatever long noodle pasta you like), and a couple of tablespoons of butter

 

First, season the chicken with salt and pepper.

Put the chicken into a deep skillet skin side down.  Let it brown really well and then flip to the other side.  Check out my new splatter shield!  Favorite kitchen gadget.  I am freakishly afraid of being splattered on.

While the chicken is cooking, dice up your onion and mince your garlic (or cheat, like me, and use the stuff in the jar).  Also, grate your parmesan cheese.  You’ll need about 3/4 of a cup. Once the chicken is done, transfer it to a plate and drain all but a tablespoon or two of the fat from the pan.

Saute the diced onion in the chicken fat and after a minute or two add the garlic as well.  Saute until translucent.

Thus endeth almost all of my useful pictures.

Go ahead and get your pasta going at this point.  I used spaghetti, cooked to the instructions on the box.

With a slotted spoon, remove the onion and garlic from the pan and add in your mushrooms.  Brown them up nicely and remove them from the pan as well.

Deglaze the pan with about a cup of wine and let it reduce til it’s almost gone, then add in a cup of stock (note: I think chicken stock would be preferable, but I was working out of the pantry and we didn’t have any).  At this point, add your garlic, onions and mushrooms back in and let simmer.

Now here’s where things get weird.  In a separate, large bowl (big enough to fit everything including your pasta) beat together your cheese and your two eggs.  As soon as your pasta is finished, drain it and dump it, piping hot, on top of the egg/cheese mixture.  Immediately add the onion/mushroom/stock sauce to the top to the bowl along with about 3 tablespoons of butter.  With tongs, briskly toss everything together for a few minutes until it all comes together and looks nice and creamy.

Top with pine nuts, more parmesan and some pepper and next to your crispy chicken and I promise, as bad as that last picture is, it was quite good!

And yes, it would have been nice to have a finished product photo here.  No, I don’t have one.  I think my camera died before I had a plate ready.  At least, that is the most likely explanation.

 

April 4, 2011

Oh, the Entertainment – The Auld Irisher

Since the hubs and I started dating lo these 3 1/2 years ago, we have had a great time visiting new (and often extremely interesting) restaurants.  Our favorite way to find out-of-the-way places is to flip through our Entertainment Book and pick something that sounds good and is close by and to check it out.  This method has resulted in a number of entertaining stories, because as often as not, the restaurants advertising in the EB are… how do you say… unique.

There is the “Italian” restaurant that also serves hot wings, burritos, and orange chicken.  There is that other Italian place with great food but a strange owner who tossed the menus on the table, grunted when we ordered our food, and poured the wine straight to the top of the glass (I’m talking, we needed straws to keep our laps dry).  When he brought the check, not only did he not give us our discount, but he used some imaginative math to find our total.   We could have eaten at Ruth’s Chris for what he tried to charge us.

At one french restaurant we made best friends with our waiter who told us that their bananas foster was okay, but his wife’s was better and did we want to come over later to try it?  The first Indian restaurant we tried had an actual matchmaker working in the back corner (I kid you not).  We were the only other people in the place and spent no time talking to each other and the entire time listening raptly to the matchmaking going down in the back corner booth.

Despite a few negative experiences, for the most part we have loved checking all these new places out and if nothing else, we almost always get a great story out of it.  In case anyone else in the Orange County area wants to get in on the fun, I’m going to start a new review section chronicling our adventures (and misadventures) at locations in our Entertainment Book.

Oh, the Entertainment, Review #1 — The Auld Irisher

Long overdue for a date, the hubs and I went to see a movie (The Adjustment Bureau – recommended.  Philosophically interesting with a love story.  Listen for the sweet Thomas Newman score– love him!) and have dinner.  We wandered over to the restaurants adjacent to the theater and saw the Auld Irisher among them.  A quick consultation with the book told us we had ourselves a winner (buy one entree, get one free!) and we went in.

The ambiance was just right for a pub: loud but not raucous, dark but not scary, and intimate but not crowded.  We settled down into our booth and ordered a Jameson (to split; were I to have a whole Jameson to myself the hubs would have had to toss me over his shoulder, caveman-like, to get me out of there).  Just perusing the menu was fun.  They have everything from ahi burgers to steamed mussels to shepherd’s pie (plus they spell “Children’s Fair,”  “Children’s Fayre” and what’s not fun about that?).  I settled on the fish and chips, and after much debate he went for the lamb burger.

While we waited our waitress brought us HP Sauce (!) and other British-y condiments.

See?  Authentic.

The food came out quickly, was piping hot, and looked lovely.  My fish and chips was deliciously crispy and beer-battery.  Just exactly what one wants in fish and chips:

Do forgive the terrible phone picture, but as you can see my fries were so irresistible some were already being stolen.

Hubs’s lamb burger was also so, so good.  It was juicy and flavorful and I didn’t even know I liked lamb.  Just excellent.  Another equally bad picture:

That salad had homemade bleu cheese dressing on it as well.

All told, we really enjoyed the Auld Irisher and would highly recommend it to other Entertainment Book treasure hunters.  I’d go there without the discount too; the prices were very reasonable for the high quality food: 14 dollars for the fish and chips and 13 for the lamb burger, I believe.  With our buy one, get one free discount we got out of there for under 30 bucks even after the whiskey and tip.

This pretty much speaks for itself:

Rest assured, all the fries were eaten before any plates were cleared.

March 16, 2011

Birthday Dinner

REE_9145
Photo credit:  The Pioneer Woman

Today is my hubs’s birthday.  He is 3 cubed and he is psyched about it.  He got a composter for his birthday (yes, I am that romantic) and we are having  possibly definitely the best steak and sauce/side combo ever for dinner.  It’s going to be legendary.  PW is not messing around.  I wouldn’t lie to you.  It is spectacular and if you haven’t made it I implore you to do so.  I don’t even like blue cheese and I could put this stuff on my ice cream, it’s that good.

Try it.  Trust.

PS- Where would you be without me to guide you to these little known sites like “YouTube” and “Pioneer Woman”?